A woman in Indonesia who plead guilty to planning a suicide bombing has been sentenced to over seven years in prison, the first such prosecution in the country’s history.
Dian Yulia Novi had plotted with her husband to detonate a suicide vest outside the presidential palace in Jarkata. According to Reuters, the 10-year sentence demanded by prosecutors was reduced after she admitted to the plan.
Novi reportedly developed the plan after becoming radicalized through social media while working abroad. Like many countries around the world, Indonesia has been confronted with a rise in domestic Islamic terrorism influenced by the global appeal of the Islamic State. Typical of other instances of female suicide bombers or terrorists in general, her gender has captured media attention. However, female suicide bombers are not a new phenomenon, although their presence on the battlefield has increased as terrorist tactics have evolved.
Women have taken part in terrorist violence for decades, using their status as a female as a means to gain access to non-permissive environments and avoid particularly invasive security searches. The first known use of a woman as a suicide bomber was in 1985, when a teenager detonated a truck laden with explosives next to an Israeli military convoy, killing two IDF soldiers. Since then women have been used across the world in martyr operations, from Palestine to Chechnya, Turkey to Sri Lanka.
Perhaps most notably, a woman wearing a suicide vest killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi in 1991.
Women make particularly adept suicide bombers because they can generally avoid the scrutiny males will typically encounter in high threat security environments. They are also particularly useful for terrorist organizations when they succeed, as female suicide bombers reportedly receive eight times the amount of media coverage as their male counterparts, giving increased publicity to their cause.
Boko Haram and the Islamic State have welcomed and encouraged the use of women as suicide bombers.
Featured image shows aftermath of Jakarta suicide bomb attack in 2016. By Gunawan Kartapranata